Tell us a little bit about your latest work.
Speechless is the story of Chelsea Knot, a gossip queen who takes an oath of silence after she spills someone’s secret in a way that has disastrous consequences. It’s a story about the power of words, figuring out who you are, what real friendship is like, romance, and diners!
What are some of the qualities in your latest work that set it/you apart from what's currently out there on the market?
Speechless is unique I think in having a rather timely cultural relevance with the subject matter. Bullying has been a hot topic in the media recently and is certainly something that affects most teenagers. I hope the story gives something for teens to relate to without being preachy about it.
Where did you get the inspiration to talk about such a hard topic?
Were you bullied when you were younger? And if so, how did you manage to overcome it?
I was bullied pretty badly when I was in middle school. I spent a long time trying to just keep my head down and stick it out, but it got to a point where I admitted what was going on to my mother and the administration got involved. At first that made things worse, but then it seemed to improve and I was left alone more or less and in my last year made a good group of friends. I ended up moving across the state to a new town the summer before I started high school and I never had any problems like that in my high school years.
What would you say to your Younger Self?
I think I would tell my younger self to not be so intimidated by others. When I was a pre-teen, being targeted by bullies really did a number on my self-esteem. It took a while for me to be more comfortable with myself, even with little things like letting people know what I was thinking. Now I never shut up about anything! I just wish I’d known back then how little all of that would matter in a few years.
What attracts you to the Young Adult genre specifically?
The teenage years are a really unique time where I think what media you’re consuming affects you in a deeper sense than it does when you’re an adult. That’s a period where you’re really figuring out who you are, what you believe and stand for, what kind of person you want to be, and so I feel like the books you read and the films you watch and the music you listen to all shape you in a way that it wouldn’t otherwise. When I look back, the books that had the most impact on me were ones I read when I was a teenager. So I think that’s a really amazing quality that writing for a young adult audience has. I also just have always, always loved the genre. I grew up on young adult novels, devoured them and they had a big effect on me, both as a person and as a writer.
Who would you count among your strongest influences for your latest work, and why?
I’ve always admired any author who has a strong character voice, especially one that feels relatable and authentic to teens. Authors like Rachel Cohn, Megan McCafferty, and Meg Cabot are really great at developing those types of characters who feel very unique and distinctive in their inner monologues and dialogue. I would say that my aim was to make Chelsea Knot from Speechless stand out in a similar way.
Who or what do you hope not to be compared to?
I will take any comparison as long as it’s meant to be flattering!
Do you have pursuits outside of young adult fiction?
I play a little guitar, though not very well, and I dabble a bit in photography.
In your experience in life, what could you say to our viewers about bullying and being bullied?
Standing up for yourself at that age can be such a hard thing, but it’s the most important. That doesn’t have to mean standing up directly to your aggressors, but even seeking help from either parents or authority figures at school. Every kid deserves to go through school without fear of being bullied, emotionally or physically, and to feel safe. The best thing to do to stop it is to try to reach out to someone, a parent or teacher, and if that doesn’t help, there are organizations like Love is Louder that exist to provide support and resources for you.